Yale receives $10 million to study tobacco use: Research grant comes from three national organizations

October 17, 1999

New Haven, Conn. -- Yale Medical School researchers will examine why some smokers are resistant to current smoking cessation treatments with a $10 million grant from The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The five-year grant is part of an $84 million initiative by these three organizations to create national Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Centers (TTURC) for studying tobacco use, new ways to reduce its use and combat its consequences. Led by Principal Investigator Stephanie S. O'Malley, Ph.D., Yale's new TTURC center consists of a multidisciplinary group of scientists conducting five major tobacco research projects.

"The goal of our center is to improve tobacco addiction treatment by studying why current treatments fail and developing new behavioral and drug treatments that address these factors," said O'Malley, professor of psychiatry and director of the Division of Substance Abuse Research at Yale Medical School. "It is critically important that more effective smoking cessation treatments be developed, because most smokers try to quit only once every three to four years."

Despite trends that show declining smoking rates in the general population, rates are declining less in female smokers, smokers with depression and smokers who are heavy drinkers. The five Yale studies will focus on these often-overlooked segments of the smoking population.

"Given societal pressures against smoking, the majority of current smokers are either in the process of quitting or interested in stopping, but many find it difficult to quit and are treatment resistant," said Marina Picciotto, assistant professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Yale. "In order to treat this group of smokers, we have to increase understanding of alcohol use and depression, which are known factors in treatment failure."

The center grant provides a rare opportunity to examine these risk factors across different disciplines, according to O'Malley. "In taking this approach, we believe that we will gain a more complete understanding of why these groups are at greater risk and how they can be more effectively treated," she said.

The five major projects use a range of methods to understand these issues from multiple perspectives, including animal models of nicotine dependence and molecular studies, human laboratory research, brain imaging techniques, and clinical trials.

In this respect, O'Malley says, the center has breadth in the tools and perspectives that will be applied to the research and depth in the center's focus on specific risk factors for treatment failure.

"This is pioneering medicine that can improve the way we think about and treat nicotine addiction," said Rep. Pat Dillon (D-92), a member of Yale's TTURC Center community advisory group. "This is an exciting step forward for Yale and for public health."

In addition to the research projects, a key center objective is to interest new investigators in tobacco research. This will be accomplished through a variety of career development activities and funding for smaller pilot research projects.

The five major research projects funded by the grant include:
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Yale University

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